Wandering around the Dealer’s Room of the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention, I approached a table that was filled with promotional items labeled “Zombies have the right to dance,” and realized I had found a like-minded friend. Doy Gardner was manning the Black 13 Tattoo Parlor table, promoting his unique dance party, Promocalypse, a Zombie Prom. After moving to Nashville in 1999 to pursue music, his love for tattooing led to the creation of Black 13 Tattoo Parlor with Josh Woods in 2008. This partnership turn led to the creation of his undead party, now entering its fourth year in Nashville, Tennessee and taking place on April 27 at Cannery Ballroom. Doy was kind enough to discuss the details of Promocalypse and Black 13’s contribution to the Nashville community.
Can you tell me a little bit about Promocalypse?
– “We try to do events through the tattoo shop, because we have a good fanbase built through that. My business partner had the idea of wanting to do a prom. I’m a big fan of Halloween, and feel like it should happen more than once a year. I was a little worried about doing just a prom, attendance-wise. So, I had the idea of doing a Zombie Prom, but making it different. It’s not just a Zombie Prom; it’s the idea of coexistence. The idea is that a living/dead couple can enjoy the night. We built the whole idea around a high-school prom. Fortunately, there is drinking. It is an 18 and up event; 21 and up for drinking.”
Will it be decorated like a high school prom?
– “It’s got balloons and streamers. We have catering and a full bar. There is a photobooth. We actually do a Homecoming Court and crown a King and Queen that night. We have DJs and some dancers that will perform. All in all, it’s the idea of a high school prom with Zombies.”
What’s the location of Promocalypse?
– “This’ll be the third year at Cannery Ballroom, here in Nashville. The first year, we started out at a place called Avenue Nine to test things out and to see how it would go. It’s taken off. It’s done really well. We actually reached capacity last year, which is 750. I still want to keep it smaller. I don’t want it to be a couple thousand people. That doesn’t feel like high school prom at all. Still, at 750, it was larger than my high school.”
How long has Black 13 Tattoo Parlor been in Nashville?
– “The shop will be five years old in August. I’m one of the owners. The shop’s built around myself and Josh. He’s a tattooer, I’m not. So, I take care of the business side. Managing the day-to-day business, bookwork, customers, branding, marketing, all that stuff. We have six other tattoo artists right now.”
Is everyone at your shop a Zombie fan?
– “There’s a few of them who are really into it. I’ve always been into it, but I’m not a fanatic by any means. My thing: I’m a huge fan of Halloween and dressing up, but bummed that it happens once a year. It happens that April perfectly offsets October, timewise. So every six months, you get to dress up. April being prom season, it all ties in nicely.”
What’s your favorite Zombie movie?
– “I’m probably going be leaning toward the newer stuff, like Zombieland and The Walking Dead.”
Are you attracting many out-of-towners to this event?
– “It’s been really cool to see that people will travel to the event. Our presales go to Georgia, Kentucky, everywhere in Tennessee and Alabama. The long-term goal is to grow the event into something larger, maybe even multi-cities.”
How does one get nominated for Prom King and Queen?
– “You can actually nominate yourself on Facebook right now, to be in the prom court. A week before the event, we’ll close voting. We’ll take the top five girls, the top five guys, and that’ll bring up the prom court this year. When someone comes to the event, they’re given two tickets — a pink and a blue one — to vote on a girl and a guy.”
Does the dance have a dress code?
– “The big catch for the prom is you have to be in formal attire. Everybody’s dressed up. It doesn’t have to be a tux, by any means. Just formal attire. Basically, no jeans and t-shirts. You don’t have to be a Zombie, you can be a human. I usually always wear a pink shirt, just so I’m easily visible, if people need me.”
Will there be any prom accessories available to purchase at the dance?
– “We’ll have Zombie — like dead — corsages and boutonnieres at the event this year. We always try to provide makeup artists at the event, too. You can book appointments at the venue, prior to the event that day and during the event. So, people who want extensive stuff, it’s better to book before the event.”
Does Black 13 host any other events throughout the year?
– “We try to be more involved and do events. Promocalypse is one of them. We do a big anniversary party in August as well. We sponsor random charity shows throughout the year to build some kind of presence, outside of tattooing.”